Sole escapee describes downtown Yangon raid that led to the deaths of at least two activists

A young man originally reported to have been shot dead in an August 10 military raid on a downtown Yangon apartment is alive and in a liberated area, Myanmar Now has learned. 

Two of the five young anti-coup activists who fell from the roof of a three-storey apartment building on 44th St in Botahtaung Township during the raid have been confirmed dead. There has been no further update on the three survivors, except that they were admitted to a military hospital.

Local media outlets originally reported that Kaung Min Thant—also known as Flex, and who was in the apartment at the time—was shot by junta troops during the raid.

“I heard a gunshot. I don’t know who was shot but it definitely wasn’t me. I think the rumour about me started when a media outlet wrote about it,” Kaung Min Thant told Myanmar Now. 

On Tuesday he explained that he managed to escape by hiding on the roof of the apartment building for 12 hours, and what he saw before he fled. 

Tracked down

Prior to the raid, there were reportedly nine people in the 44th St apartment. In addition to Kaung Min Thant, they included Wai Phyo Aung; Wai Wai Myint; Poe Kyawt Kyawt Khant; Wai Zaw Htet; Wai Yan Htet; Min Thitsar Aung, also known as Bala; Ye Min Oo, also known as Ye Gyi; and Thiha Kaung Set. 

Members of the group were known to operate with the Botahtaung-Pazundaung Strike Committee. 

Kaung Min Thant said that they were apprehended after members of the military council used a CCTV camera in front of the Pazundaung Township market to obtain the licence plate number of the taxi they regularly used. The taxi driver, Kyaw, was captured on August 9, he said. 

The activists did not know the taxi had been identified. 

On the day of the raid, they received a message from Kyaw’s phone requesting “fuel fees.” 

“We didn’t want to go out and we were planning to flee, so we decided to transfer the fees through [the money transfer application] Wave and then blocked his number,” Kaung Min Thant said.

Their plan to leave was made more difficult after five bomb blasts occurred in Pazundaung and Botahtaung, causing the junta to set up roadblocks in the area. 

Hours before the raid, the group had sent Wai Phyo Aung to the Bogalayzay bus station to survey traffic conditions, and he was arrested by men believed to be plainclothes troops in a civilian vehicle.  

“That’s how they found out about the apartment. They found out the address and exactly how many of us there were,” Kaung Min Thant said. 

The raid

Before the apartment raid, Kaung Min Thant said that the military council blocked all exits to 44th St, as well as the intersecting Merchant and Strand roads. 

“Normally, only police officers would come in to arrest someone. They were heavily armed just to arrest us. I think they already planned to arrest us when everything happened,” he said.

Kaung Min Thant managed to hide on the roof when plainclothes military personnel arrived at the apartment in a white Toyota Alphard at around 3:30 pm—the same type of car that Wai Phyo Aung was allegedly picked up in earlier that day.

“I managed to go to the roof through the spiral staircase beside the balcony,” he explained. 

Although he did not see Ye Min Oo, Wai Wai Myint, Wai Zaw Htet, Wai Yan Htet and Min Thitsar Aung jump, he said he saw all five of them on the ground in the alley below when he went to check on them from the roof.

“It happened within seconds. It didn’t even take a minute,” Kaung Min Thant told Myanmar Now.

Myanmar Now confirmed that 27-year-old Ye Min Oo survived the fall, but was in critical condition, and 29-year-old Wai Wai Myint was one of two individuals who died at the scene.

Thiha Kaung Set, Poe Kyawt Kyawt Khant, and Wai Phyo Aung were placed under arrest, and were identified in video footage released by the military. 

Kaung Min Thant said that the troops on the ground repositioned Wai Wai Myint’s body to reveal her backside in order to deface her image online.

“Everything they’re saying is false. I’m the only one left who knows the truth. They were looking for me furiously because they knew I could expose them. The only things that are true about the rumours are that there were five of them and that they jumped of their own accord. Everything else is a lie,” he said.

From his hiding place, Kaung Min Thant heard the soldiers beating those who survived the jump.

“We had already agreed that we would try our best to flee and if everything else failed, we’d sacrifice our lives. That’s what we all agreed on,” he said.

Kaung Min Thant said he was only able to escape because he remained in hiding until after 3am on August 11, some 12 hours later. 

“I climbed down through one of the eaves that appeared to be strong enough to hold my body weight,” he told Myanmar Now. “As soon as there were people on the streets, I tried to blend in with the people and the cars and I headed towards a safe place where no one would be able to find me. I made the decision to not go home either.”

Kaung Min Thant alleged that officers from Botahtaung police station asked his family to pay 2.6 million kyat (more than US$1,500) to retrieve his body when he was, in fact, alive.

“My family couldn’t pay that amount of money and later they found out that I was alive.”

Now in an area under the control of an ethnic armed organisation, Kaung Min Thant said that he would continue to fight against the military dictatorship.

“Now that I’m not in the city anymore, I’m going to take part in revolutionary actions in accordance with the ways they operate here.”

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